P&Z launches into detox | Local News

At its March 14 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission got the ball rolling on possible changes to the zoning ordinance regarding drug and alcohol treatment centers, as well as drug rehabilitation facilities. in Fountain Hills.

In late 2020, City staff received inquiries regarding the possibility of establishing a detox facility within the community. Since the local ordinances don’t really address this specific use, it was determined that it would be better to list something now, rather than wait for potential demand for such a facility later.

Director of Development Services John Wesley led the discussion with a presentation at the March 14 meeting. Commissioners added their own ideas and concerns to the conversation, and the public was also invited to speak directly to the issue. As this was a point of discussion, no formal action was taken.

Wesley began his presentation by clarifying what exactly a detox facility is, noting in his background information provided to the Commission that they are “places where people can go for help to withdraw drugs and/or alcohol”.

There are three main types of drug rehabilitation facilities, including subacute, outpatient, and more intensive inpatient facilities. The methodology of these facilities also varies.

“In some cases, patients are motivated to end their addiction and have the time and means to seek treatment,” the background information explains. “In other cases, the patient may be ordered into treatment, starting with detox, or they may not be as personally motivated to seek help.”

At the annual city council retreat in February 2021, council members asked staff to explore how these facilities could fit into the zoning ordinance.

“When staff followed up with a draft ordinance, the Planning and Zoning Commission was [already] address the issue of hospitals and possible modifications to enable this use,” Wesley explained. “Given public concern over drug treatment facilities and possible confusion with what was being considered for hospitals, the Commission voted on April 12, 2021 against the draft order and work on this matter has been interrupted.”

Now that the hospital ordinances are on the books and given reports from the city attorney that the community is unable to simply ban rehab facilities, planning and zoning are now returning to address these lingering issues. It is important to note that this item is separate from, though somewhat related to, the question regarding group homes and sober homes. (See related story.)

There is an important distinction between detox and treatment facilities, so planning and zoning address both.

During the meeting, drug treatment facilities were noted as coming in two main types, starting with sub-acute/ambulatory care, which generally operate during normal office hours during the day. Patients come and go to these facilities and sometimes receive medication.

Acute care/hospital facilities, on the other hand, operate 24/7, with patients undergoing a medically supervised detoxification process, which typically entails a stay of five to seven days.

For zoning districts, Wesley suggested C-2 and/or C-3, especially for acute care/hospital facilities. He also suggested that additional conditions could be put in place, such as requiring an indoor waiting area, a contact to report complaints or issues, and policy information. Release.

As for treatment facilities, these are broken down into outpatient and inpatient. The former usually operate during daytime working hours, but can extend well into the evening, clients come for treatment – be it medication, counseling or group meetings – and they can offer treatment outpatient detox as part of their program.

Inpatient facilities are those where a patient resides on-site while receiving treatment. They operate 24/7 and the process usually takes 30-90 days.

The zoning district would likely be C-1 through TCCD, although C-2 and/or C-3 have been suggested, especially for acute care/hospital facilities. Wesley noted that a special use permit may also be required for review.

Other conditions to consider were the same as for drug treatment centers, including the requirement for an indoor waiting area, exit policies, etc.

Wesley concluded by saying he was looking for guidance on how to deal with these issues in city ordinances. On the basis of the information provided, a first draft of the said addenda will be brought back to the committee for examination. Following additional conversations on the matter at the April planning and zoning meeting, a public hearing may be possible as early as May.

Commissioners and members of the public offered comments after the presentation, with Commissioner Susan Dempster saying she would like to explore whether a required distance between these facilities and schools/daycares could be considered.

Commissioner Clayton Corey wanted wording about on-site drug testing requirements included, just to cover that basis, and asked if law enforcement input could be sought when developing the draft text.

From the community, Larry Meyers spoke on the open call, warning that property values ​​generally go down for anyone living near a rehab facility.

“I know you can’t ban them, but you better watch what you’re doing…” Meyers said. “Do we want to tell these people that their property value just dropped?”

Other speakers reiterated concerns frequently associated with detox facilities, ranging from patients using them to potential “street drug paraphernalia” or bad faith operators.

Staff will now begin the process of creating potential amendments to the zoning ordinance, with discussion expected to continue in the coming months.